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  • 2004 Archive

  • Vol. 6, No. 52
    Whole #198
    December 23, 2004
    Edited by Rod D. Moody and Valerie Beaudrault

    Greetings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society! This newsletter has been sent to NEHGS members and friends who have subscribed to it, or submitted their email addresses on various membership and sales department forms and website notices. NEHGS recognizes the importance of its members' privacy, and will not give away, sell or lease personal information. If you would like to unsubscribe or change your email address, please click on the link at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions provided.

    Copyright 2004, New England Historic Genealogical Society
    101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116


    * Holiday Hours at NEHGS
    * New Databases on
    * Research Article from the Archives
    * Spotlight on State Archives Websites, Part One
    * Take Our New Online Survey!
    * Register for NEHGS Research Getaways!
    * More Little-Known Facts About Santa
    * Upcoming Genealogy in a Nutshell Lectures at the NEHGS Library
    * Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback
    * NEHGS Contact Information

    Holiday Hours at NEHGS

    Please note the special holiday hours in the NEHGS Research Library and NEHGS offices:

    * Friday, December 24 - Christmas Eve Day - Closed

    * Saturday, December 25 - Christmas - Closed

    * Friday, December 31 - New Year's Eve - Closed

    * Saturday, January 1, 2005 - New Year's Day - Closed

    To see a full listing of operating hours and holiday closings go to

    Happy Holidays from all of us at NEHGS!

    New Databases on


    Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910

    Added this week: Records for 1864

    The latest installment in this ongoing database includes actual records from 1864 (vols. 168-176). The indexes, which were previously added to the database, include name of individual, town or village of event, year of event, and volume and page number of the original record. The records themselves include much more information.

    For detailed information about this database, please refer to the link found on the database search page (see link below) titled "Introduction to the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1910 Database." Here you will find a link to a chart displaying records currently available and those forthcoming.

    The "Introduction" contains information that will contribute greatly to the success of your searches and answers common questions about these records and our database. If you have questions that our article does not address, or if you are having difficulty with this database, please email

    Search Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910 at

    Taxable Valuation of the Residents of Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1855

    The records in this database are taken from a single volume that includes taxable valuations of Dorchester from 1850 to 1869. We are adding the remainder of this book in installments by year and in individual databases, due to the various differences in formatting.

    The original text is part of the NEHGS Rare Books Collection, call number F74/D5/D67/1850.


    Search the Taxable Valuation of the Residents of Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1855 at

    Research Article from the Archives

    Every Family Should Have a Health History

    by Norma Storrs Keating

    Originally published September, 2002

    When families gather for holidays or reunions it isn't uncommon to hear comments like "He's the spitting image of Uncle Ralph" or "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." While these homespun comments aren't scientific, they do point out that members of the same family often share the same recognizable traits, illnesses, and diseases. Unfortunately, the information is rarely written down or compiled into a permanent record that family members can utilize, although the American Medical Association has urged for years that every family should keep some sort of a health history that medical practitioners can use when planning treatment programs for their patients.

    Doctors are now beginning to understand just how vital family health history information is for evaluating and treating individual patients. Genetic researchers have found that genetic factors underlie all aspects of health and disease, and that a family can learn much about its medical future by examining the past. This shift in understanding is a direct result of the completion of the Human Genome Project, a massive ten-year undertaking led by the National Institutes of Health. The project involved scientists from all over the world who deciphered the entire human genetic code, known as the genome.

    As the decoding progressed, researchers charted, or mapped, each of the 100,000 human genes to discover what each of them does. Using this information, scientists have identified over 3,000 genetic diseases and with new medical discoveries, the list keeps growing. We now have the fundamental knowledge about individual cells that help determine whether or not a genetic disorder-- or predisposition to a given disease-- will be passed to offspring. This massive amount of information holds the promise of a far better understanding of human behavior, health, and disease, as well as many new drugs, treatments, test procedures, and medical equipment.

    Family history is playing an ever increasingly important role as doctors and genetic researchers, surprised by the extent to which adult diseases are genetically linked, have begun to study family trees to identify patterns of health and disease that can impact their patients. Comprehensive family health histories are helping researchers find more links between diseases, complicated medical conditions, and genetic factors than ever before. They also have determined that many other conditions, though not inherited, do tend to occur more frequently in some families than others. A study of 25,000 family medical trees found 43,000 people who were at risk for genetic illnesses.

    Every individual is a unique being that is a product of his or her environment and the genes inherited from parents. But these genes determine more than gender, eye color, and left- or right-handedness. They also contain the molecular blueprint that controls predisposition to disease and illness. Faulty genes passed on from one or both parents can result in the possibility of inherited disease or disorder in a family. The eventual development of a medical condition or disorder depends on the location and function of the gene, how neighboring genes operate, and whether the gene is recessive or dominant. Recessive genes are transferred from one generation to another without the carrier becoming ill. In essence, they hide, which may necessitate searching backward or forward a few generations to find their effects. For example, a man can transmit a recessive gene that contributes to breast cancer from his mother to his daughter. Experts have estimated that some twenty million Americans are carriers of genetic defects and that each individual is a carrier of at least twenty abnormal recessive genes that have a potential to cause a genetic disorder.

    In spite of all this, it is known that about one-half to two-thirds of all health conditions do not have a genetic cause, meaning that many health conditions that tend to run in families are not now known to be inherited diseases. For most people, the overall risk of developing a disease is still relatively small even if they have a family health history of it. However, chances can double if a brother, sister, child, or parents had it. This doesn't mean an individual will get the disease; only that he or she is at higher risk. The importance of having a family health history becomes increasingly important when considered in this context.

    What does this mean to the family historian and keeper of family records? Genealogists will be adding genetics to their other research sources and skills to create and maintain family health histories that will contribute to the well being of their families. Who better for the job, since family health information is usually found among the many types of records that genealogists routinely use in their research endeavors. In fact, in the course of compiling a family's history, the genealogist will gather much or all of the information required for a health history.

    Family historians should be aware that a medical family tree differs from a genealogical family tree in several important ways. First, it contains only blood relatives who share common genes. Second, the tree extends horizontally as well as vertically, and includes all siblings on each level. This is referred to as the whole family approach. Third, an individual's health history documents only three or four generations with the person for whom the tree is constructed being designated as the first generation. Fourth, regular updating of the information is crucial to keep the health history current and, therefore, useful.

    Since a family health history benefits the living members of a family, it should begin with the youngest person and work backward from there. Thus, personal knowledge combined with verifying documents, such as medical records, baby books, insurance documents, immunization records, death records, obituaries, etc., may be all that is needed to begin constructing a four generation health history for each living family member. Generally, the more recent generations will be fairly easy to document while more removed ancestor information may require digging deeper into unusual types of records.

    Once the family health history is compiled, it can be used in several ways. First, and foremost, it should be given to the family doctor or health practitioner who has been trained to evaluate the information it contains. Of course, it should be shared with interested family members so that they can also receive beneficial help from their doctors. The information can be used to aid in completing the medical history forms all doctors now require of their patients. Having a copy of the health history handy in the doctor's office will ensure nothing is inadvertently omitted. During an emergency or other stressful situation, it is easy to forget something important, so keeping a copy of the health history handy for use by any family member can greatly assist in treatment.

    Documenting a family's health history could be the most important way a genealogist can contribute to the good of his family. It allows members to become proactive in their health care. Creating and maintaining a health history can provide a family and its medical care providers with graphic presentations in the form of medical pedigree and medical genogram charts that can be used to identify patterns of family health, disease, relationships, and traits that might otherwise be missed. If no disease patterns are recognized, this can free the family from worry about health risks that are not likely to occur to those who pursue a reasonably healthy lifestyle.

    After the family health history has been analyzed by a qualified medical professional it can assist in creating a customized medical care plan. This plan might include more frequent scheduling of tests and checkups to watch for early warning signs of illness and disease. It could also recommend beneficial life and behavior modifications in diet or exercise. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or delay the development of a disease to which someone is genetically predisposed. Should a serious genetic illness be identified in the family health history, genetic counseling may be advised to assist in making important and difficult life choices, such as whether to marry or have children.

    Genealogists know firsthand that as each generation passes, it becomes harder to obtain information needed for a family history, so recording data now in a family health history format will ensure accessibility to family members yet to come. Information compiled now can help future generations take advantage of the new discoveries, new drugs, and new treatments we can only speculate about.

    Selected Bibliography:

    Bell, Sherilyn L. and Constandina N. Arvanitis. The Genes in Your Genealogy. Heritage Book Series: #10. Toronto, Canada: Heritage Productions, 2001.

    Betit, Kyle and Loni Gardner. "Genealogy and Genetics: Discovering the Future in the Past", New England Ancestors 2 (Summer 2001): 11-15.

    Daus, Carol and Jeanne Homer. Past Imperfect: How Tracing Your Family Medical History Can Save Your Life. Santa Monica, California: Santa Monica Press, 1999.

    Gormley, Myra Vanderpool. Family Diseases: Are You at Risk? Baltimore, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1995.

    Keating, Norma Storrs, RN, BSN, and Richard F. Robinson with Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CGRS, CGL. GeneWeaver®: Family Health History Made Easy. Plymouth, Michigan: Genes & Things, Inc., 2001.

    Your Family's Health History: An Introduction. Special Issue, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 82 (2)(June 1994).

    Spotlight on State Archives, Part One

    In the next few issues of eNews we will profile various State Archives and State Libraries around the country that have made some of their collections available online.

    West Virginia State Archives (

    If you are planning a trip to the West Virginia State Archives to research your ancestors, it is well worth your while to first make a visit to the Archives website. Not only will you find a number of online resources there; you will also find guides to the collections and information on how to access manuscripts, photographs, and special collections during your visit to the facility.

    An overview of some of these resources follows, several of which relate to the Civil War era. There are the Adjutant General Papers 1861-1865, which contain correspondence, muster rolls, and miscellaneous records of the West Virginia Union regiments and the West Virginia Union militia; clothing and equipment books of the West Virginia Union Regiments; assorted Order Books of the West Virginia Union Regiments; and the Pierpont-Samuels Papers. The West Virginia Union Militia collection alone contains 6,120 documents and includes correspondence, muster rolls, forms, requisitions, and other items, in addition to the militia muster cards. The Pierpont-Samuels Papers are a collection of the papers of Governor Francis H. Pierpont and Adjutant General Henry J. Samuels of the Restored Government of Virginia, which was the precursor to the State of West Virginia. The collection contains more than 1,400 letters and other documents relating to both civilian and military matters.

    To access the databases related to these collections, click on the West Virginia Memory Project link under the Explore Archives and History header on the Archives and History main page ( More than 31,000 muster cards for soldiers in Union regiments or militia from 44 West Virginia counties have been entered into a database, which may be accessed by clicking on the Militia link. You will also find an index to The Pierpont-Samuels Papers collection, the John Brown/Boyd B. Stutler Collection database, a newspaper archive, a photograph collection, and other databases relating to the state's history in the West Virginia Memory Project.

    In December 1999, the West Virginia State Archives placed online a database of materials pertaining to John Brown from the Boyd B. Stutler Collection. Mr. Stutler (1889-1970) was a recognized authority on John Brown whose collection was acquired by the State of West Virginia. The State Archives have digitized over 20,000 pages of material from the Stutler Collection and linked them to fully searchable descriptive text. The database contains over 100 original John Brown letters and manuscripts, family letters, and three books of business letters, as well as several hundred letters of Brown's associates and biographers. In addition, pictorial materials from the collection are available.

    There are many other resources that may be of interest to you on this site including transcriptions of documents relating to the Revolutionary War and an online photographic exhibition related to the Hatfield and McCoy Feud.

    Visit the West Virginia State Archives at

    Look for another State Archives profile in next week's issue of eNews.

    Take the New NEHGS Online Survey!

    Let us know how you spend your genealogy dollar! What do you like to buy with the money you set aside for family history research? Do you prefer buying online, in a shop, or from a catalog? We'd also like to know if you use the NEHGS Online Store and the library's bookshop and how we can make your visits better.

    January's survey can be accessed from the home page or via this link:

    Register for NEHGS Research Getaways!

    Winter Getaway: February 24-26, 2005
    Spring Getaway: April 7-9, 2005

    NEHGS invites you to enjoy a research getaway at our library, one of the finest facilities for genealogical research in the country. Escape the winter doldrums by joining us for guided research, personal one-on-one consultations, morning lectures, and special access to the library, which will have extended hours just for you! Or you may choose to attend our spring research getaway, which will take place in April 2005.

    All serious genealogists should treat themselves to this special program and to the opportunity to share discoveries and swap stories with other avid researchers from all over the country. Whether you are a first-time participant or have enjoyed this program in the past, you are sure to further your research by visiting our library in Boston. Don't miss this opportunity to take advantage of our exceptional resources and the research expertise of our outstanding library staff.

    Since 1845 the NEHGS library has collected a vast number of compiled genealogies, local histories, census records, vital records, deeds, probates, and military records. The library has the latest in print, microtext, CD-ROM, and Internet resources. NEHGS also provides a highly trained research staff of professional librarians, who are eager to help you in your genealogical endeavors.

    For New England research from earliest colonial times to the twenty-first century, the library offers "one-stop shopping." Many resources are also available for New York, the mid-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest, Atlantic and French Canada, and elsewhere. England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany are also strongly represented. The library collection is further strengthened by our unique manuscript collection and extensive CD-ROM holdings. Helpful reference librarians serve all four library floors. To help in preparing a research plan, all participants will receive a copy of the newly published A Guide to the Library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

    For more information and a downloadable registration form, please visit



    More Little-Known Facts About Santa

    Last week we told you what we found out about the jolly fat man's summer home in Missouri, his liquor violation in Texas, and his fellow Missourians Frosty Snow and Rudolph Claus. We are grateful to Marilyn R. Finke of the Central Plains Region branch of NARA for adding the following valuable tidbit of information about the Show-Me State Santa:

    "It's well known that Santa is found on the 1930 Federal Census but the Central Plains Regional NARA branch has another document of Santa, still living in Marshall, MO in 1942. We house the World War II 4th registration of the draft (the old men's draft) for Santa Claus. In 1942, he is 54 years old, still lives in Marshall, MO, and lists his occupation as self-employed minister. The signature is Rev. Santa Claus. His height is 5 foot 3 inches and weight is 180 pounds, just right for Santa."

    Upcoming Genealogy in a Nutshell Lectures at the NEHGS Library

    "Bridging the Atlantic: Finding the English Origins of Your Ancestors" with David C. Dearborn on January 5 and 8, 2005

    Many Americans can trace their New England ancestors back to the immigrant from England, but stop at the water's edge. NEHGS genealogist David Dearborn will guide your quest across the ocean for English immigrants, from colonial times to the nineteenth century.

    "Writing Your Family History" with Barbara Mathews on January 12 and 15, 2005

    Whether you have been researching your family tree for several years or are just starting out, sooner or later you will want to write about your ancestors. Barbara Jean Mathews, CG, research assistant for the Great Migration Project and verifying genealogist for the Massachusetts Chapter of the Colonial Dames of America, will discuss assembling your data and putting it into print.

    All lectures take place at 10:15 a.m. at the NEHGS Library in Boston. Advance registration is not necessary.

    For more details about NEHGS education events, please visit our online Education Center at If you have questions, please call Member Services at 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday.


    Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback

    Each week we ask the questions "Who is your favorite ancestor? Who is your favorite black sheep ancestor? Why?" If you would like to contribute information on your favorite and/or black sheep ancestor, please send your story in 300 words or less to Rod Moody at Thank you to all past and future contributors!

    Please note that NEHGS does not verify responses.

    My Favorite Ancestor

    by Antoinette Maize

    My favorite ancestor is Margaret Jane Gray Maize who married my second great grandfather David Green Maize. Margaret Jane married David when she was sixteen years old in Lawrence County, Illinois. She was a small, red-haired woman, who had seven children, could not read or write, and lived and died in Putnam County, Missouri. David died in the Civil War at age thirty-nine. Some years later she remarried only to find her new husband was still married to another woman. I love and admire Margaret Jane for her courage through out her lifetime.

    by Thomas E. Perry of Bath, Maine

    We don't know where in Ireland John Perry came from, but it is said he changed his name and "left in the dark of the night." Why, we don't know except that the Tithe War is a possibility. John and his wife Catherine settled in Benedicta, Maine. Their oldest daughter, Ann, was betrothed to Mike Murphy when she took sick and died of diphtheria in June of 1849. John then suggested to Mike's father that Mike marry his other daughter, Catherine. This conversation took place at Ann's wake behind the barn, and they spoke in Gaelic, so as not to be heard or understood. When Mike's father protested about the huge difference in age, John replied, "time will take care of that."

    The Perry farm bordered on the Woodlock's farm and the Woodlock's horse would continually knock down the common fence as he scratched himself. This irritated John very much and one day the horse's tail was missing, cut off very close to the hindquarters. When John was accused of cutting of the tail, he blamed the "little people." His belief in the "fairies" was further expressed when, during his twilight years, his granddaughter asked him why he kept a hatchet under his bed, and John simply replied, "to keep the fairies from getting me." John died in Benedicta on May 5, 1886, at about ninety-six years of age.

    NEHGS Contact Information

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